19 posts categorized "Franchise"

March 16, 2023

SPIDER-MAN 2 — CLASSIC FILM PICK

    ColeSmithey.com    Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

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ColeSmithey.comSince the phenomenal $820 million international success of the first Spider-Man movie, the filmmakers have gone back to the drawing board to improve on their technical shortcomings and, more importantly, generate a top-notch script by screenwriter Alvin Sargent ("Ordinary People").

The glorious result is a careful blend of subtext rich characters responding to one another and their surroundings in a colorful action movie embellished with musical grace notes from West Side Story, thanks to Danny Elfman’s subtle score.

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Tobey Maguire again inhabits the role of the emotionally conflicted, web-slinging crime fighter, with Kirsten Dunst returning to her role as Peter Parker’s thespian love interest, Mary Jane Watson. There are plenty of surprises in this entertaining Hollywood cartoon-inspired movie that tops everything else in the genre.

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Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead) has become a more assured and patient director since he made the first Spider-Man movie. It’s a shift toward maturity that’s reflected in returning cast members Maguire, Dunst, and James Franco. Where the young actors had everything to prove in the first movie, they now have a confident handle on their characters’ personal objectives and outward goals.

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Maguire’s Peter Parker spends much of Spider-Man 2 looking askance at his alter ego, and takes a hiatus from wall-crawling long enough to boost his college grades and sit in the audience for Mary Jane’s telling performance in a production of The Importance of Being Earnest.

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The movie opens with an impoverished Peter Parker struggling to deliver time-limited pizzas around Manhattan on his aged moped. But even when Parker tries to use his Spidey powers to speed things along, he has to take time out to save a couple of children from being run over by a truck.

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The computer-aided scenes of Spider-Man swinging from Manhattan high-rises are vastly improved since his last theatrical outing, and audiences will take special joy in the flawless acrobatics on display. The filmmakers make an obvious joke later in the movie about damage to Maguire’s back that threatened to table him from participating in the sequel. Spidey takes some pretty big falls.

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Peter Parker’s college grades are suffering when he chooses to do a thesis paper on Dr. Otto Octavius (Alfred Molina, Frida), a genius scientist working on a source of perpetual energy through sustained fusion, thanks to funding from Harry Osborn (James Franco), whose father Spider-Man killed in the first movie. Osborn has since become consumed with capturing the web-crawling vigilante, to the point of becoming an alcoholic.

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Spidey gets another enemy when Doc Ock’s exhibition of his new machine backfires, and the scientist is left with four enormous steel tentacles permanently attached to his spine — hence the name Dr. Octopus.

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Peter Parker and his Aunt May (Rosemary Harris) are interrupted during a visit to a bank for a loan when Doc Ock arrives to rob the place. The ensuing battle finds Aunt May in Doc Ock’s grip atop the tall building with Spider-Man battling gravity as he fearlessly fights the evil doctor to save his cherished aunt. The sequence is remarkable for its guiding elements of humor and pathos amid all of the eye-candy action.

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A nagging question in the film arises from a problem Parker has with producing webbing. Spider-Man comes up short in the web department on several occasions, and even goes to a doctor about his waning supply of the sticky stuff. The question is never completely explained, and while it gives the character one more flaw for audiences to trouble over, it sits as unfinished business.

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Nonetheless, the movie offers plenty of fantastic spectacles — see Spider-Man stop a speeding subway train — and more than a few subtle comic references. Evil Dead star Bruce Campbell does a cool stint as a bothersome theater usher, and Willem Dafoe makes a witty appearance as the ghost of his former self.

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Even the budding romance between Peter and Mary Jane is handled with an eye toward the absurd. Spider-Man tells Mary Jane, as he protects her from a falling steel wall, “it’s heavy.” Indeed, there’s plenty of irony, surprises and cheeky fun in store in this satisfying sequel.

Rated PG-13. 127 mins.

5 Stars“ColeSmithey.com“

Cozy Cole

Cole Smithey on Patreon

September 29, 2021

NO TIME TO DIE

Welcome!

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

ColeSmithey.com

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No Time To Die, Except…

By Cole Smithey

ColeSmithey.comWith “No Time To Die’s” plaintive theme song, Billie Eilish’s lush voice announces a young, female-led era for the longest running and most successful movie franchise in the history of Cinema. New rules for flirting should be forthcoming in upcoming installments to the Bond series considering Lashana Lynch’s bold incarnation here as the new 007, agent Nomi. Get back bitches. Baby got back.

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James Bond’s signature British wit, disarming charm, and deadly tactics play like an old-school symphony of ancient Cinema origins. Thrilling chase sequences and redundant gun battles lock you into the famous big-screen James Bond formula upon which the movies are built. Watching “No Time To Die” in any format other than an IMAX screen is sacrilege. Audiences in Leonberg, Germany can enjoy it on the recently-built largest IMAX in the world, measuring in at 70’ x 125.’ I had the pleasure of seeing “No Time To Die” on America’s largest IMAX screen, located at AMC Lincoln Center. Wow. What a delight.

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At nearly three hours long, “No Time To Die” is a happy cinematic excursion, even a vacation, considering the Covid economics that kept “No Time To Die” on the shelf for well over a year. “No Time To Die” is a well-deserved welcome back to the Cinema for global audiences who have been in some form of lockdown since the inception of Covid19.

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Sure the film could easily lose 20 minutes and no one would notice, but if you’re a Bond fan, more is more. Still, co-editors Elliot Graham and Tom Cross drop the ball on several many occasions when a sharp scalpel would have helped. Lacking tempo changes, especially during dialogue-heavy scenes, point to flaws in Cary Joji Fukunaga’s direction.

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Long awaited mano y mano sequences between Daniel Craig’s ever-tightly-wound spy and his unhinged advisories, disappoint. Even Christoph Waltz, playing returning madman Ernst Blofeld (see this film’s predecessor “Spectre” - 2015), fails to hit ostensible high notes during a prison visit with Bond that draws heavily on “Silence of the Lambs” for its claustrophobic atmosphere. Blame for this film’s meandering plot also goes to a by-committee script, doctored by none other than the ubiquitous Phoebe Waller-Bridge (see “Fleabag”).

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The MacGuffin this time around involves a biowarfare plan gone awry. “Heracles” (or “Hercules” if you’re so inclined – thanks Rob Brydon) is the name given by Ralph Fiennes’s character M to a diabolical DNA weapon that has the potential to wipe out specific races, or even the Earth’s entire population if so aimed. Back-stabbing scientist Obruchev (David Dencik) is a textbook Bond villain that allows Dencik to steal scenes like pennies from heaven. The DNA infused MacGuffin proves a hydra-headed thing capable of filling comic book plot holes like so much spackling on a much-dented wall.

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Daniel Craig allows his composed character’s guarded heartstrings to vibrate more than a little at Léa Seydoux’s feminine gaze and kiss (as Dr. Madeleine Swann), even if Cary Fukunaga fails to capture on film the intended simmering passion that Seydoux and Craig work too hard at convincing us is real. Oh but for human body adoration, or in this case a lack thereof.

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“No Time To Die” squanders more than it preserves; Jeffrey Wright’s vibrant, returning Felix Leiter character could have juiced up the movie more than the screenwriters allow. For his role as Bond’s boss M, Ralph Fiennes gives the laziest portrayal of his estimable career. M is a guy who just wants to crawl into a bottle rather than take any responsibility for the global crisis he has instigated. Still, I suppose the character is true to form for most of the corridors of power all over the world.

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Most disappointing is Rami Malek as Bond villain du jour, Safin. Malek never lets the audience get a glimpse of his character’s insanity, so we never feel the fear or anxiety that Safin’s twisted mind should inspire.

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There are welcome exceptions. Ana de Armas (“Knives Out”) is a revelation as newly-minted Double 0, agent Paloma, whose outlandishly stylish scenes in Cuba spark with nerve, if not eye-popping, excitement. Indeed, the Cuban nightclub scene serves as the centerpiece of the movie that puts James Bond in a shocking spotlight. Sexy is as sexy does.

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“No Time To Die” may not be perfect, or as good as Daniel Craig’s other James Bond films. It nonetheless serves its purpose as a sly social cinematic barometer. Right or wrong, things change. Lashana Lynch has our attention. It’s already time.   

Rated PG-13. 243 mins.

4 Stars“ColeSmithey.com”

Cozy Cole

Cole Smithey on Patreon

February 26, 2019

THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH

      ColeSmithey.comGroupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

Welcome!

This ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon.

Thanks a lot acorns!

Your kind generosity keeps the reviews coming!

ColeSmithey.com

 

ColeSmithey.comPierce Brosnan (Golden Eye and Tomorrow Never Dies) can do no wrong. While leading actors like Harrison Ford and Nicholas Cage recede into mere shadows of their former selves, Pierce Brosnan gleams with all the requisite savoir-faire and charisma that the longest-running film franchise in cinema history demands. 

Brosnan's third installment as Her Majesty's top secret agent 007 lives up to the lofty expectations set down by Sean Connery's initial James Bond presence with an indispensable steely nerve and Bond's signature unquenchable libido. British director Michael Apted, best known for his fantastic 7 Up documentary film series and Coal Miner's Daughter (1980), makes a surprisingly impressive debut in the super-action genre of the Broccoli family dynasty.

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By definition a James Bond film must provide various exotic locations (in this case Bilbao, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Instanbul), include mind-bending chase scenes through exceptional places, utilize slick gadgetry, have seduction scenes with audaciously beautiful women, and include an explosive ending that catapults Bond and his fille du jour into sequestered romantic bliss. The cinematic experience goes beyond guilty audience pleasure, because there's something in it for everyone. The feeling is akin to visiting characters who have become old friends in situations that continually add up to a life-affirming thrill ride. There is a deeply felt satisfaction in hearing that priceless James Bond theme music and digging into the latest spectacular pre-credit action sequence.

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In The World Is Not Enough, James Bond is trying to track down an international terrorist, Renard (Robert Carlyle), who threatens to kill off lovely oil heiress Elektra King (Sophie Marceau). Elektra has already suffered as a former hostage of Renard but managed to escape before his hostage demands were met. Elektra is planning to open her own oil pipeline into Turkey after the explosive assassination of her wealthy father.

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It's a theme right out of today's news as President Clinton has just approved a similar pipeline to deliver oil from Azerbaijan and Georgia into Turkey without going through Russia or Iran. The screenwriters could not have landed on a more topical idea, and although content is never the crux of a James Bond movie, it is an added bonus that the countries visited in The World Is Not Enough are currently very active in the news.

Judi Dench (Shakespeare in Love) returns to nourish the series as Bond's strident boss "M," while Desmond Llewelyn returns for the 19th time as Bond's meticulous gadget guru "Q." Robert Carlyle (TrainspottingThe Full Monty) does a brilliant turn as the ruthless terrorist Renard. He's the nastiest villain to challenge Bond since Max Zorin (Christopher Walken) in A View to a Kill. Renard's character is first introduced in a meeting between Bond and M as a giant three-dimensional translucent head revealing the bullet lodged in his brain that makes it impossible for him to feel pain. It's an ingenious scene, because it makes us question whether or not this man is still alive and what kind of monster could survive such a state of being. Carlyle looks physically wrecked in his scenes while exuding an air of spontaneous combustion beneath his misshapen and sullen eyes.

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The World Is Not Enough keeps the stakes high for the James Bond franchise by paying closer attention to character development and interaction than recent films in the series. M proves herself to not be a perfect judge of character, and the beautiful Princess Elektra has a little "Stockholm Syndrome" stuck in the front of her mind to give the plot some artful double-crossing. Denise Richards may not be the most believable nuclear weapons expert as Dr. Christmas Jones, but she is the most comely.

ColeSmithey.com

Michael Apted more than hits his directorial marks, and at two hours eight minutes, The World Is Not Enough is, pound for explosion pound, a great return on your entertainment dollar.

Rated PG-13. 128 mins.Four Stars

Cozy Cole

ColeSmithey.com

 

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